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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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The Huddle
WEEK 4
~ 2009 ~
Season Ticket
Sunday
Sunday
Sunday
Sunday Late
Bye Week
ARI, PHI
Monday
ATL, CAR
*Updated

Prediction: BAL 20, NE 23

Saturday Update: Moss has been removed from the injury report and is a must start. Welker was limited again on Friday. He remains a gametime decision and neither he nor Edelman are a safe start for now. The only remotely safe thing here is if Welker is scratched and you know Edelman takes all his work.

Friday Update: Randy Moss has been limited both days to rest his back but he's no different than last week and is expected to play. Wes Welker has been limited in both practices as he was last week when he did not play. Short of him having a full day on Friday, he'll be another game time decision and a big risk again this week.

The Patriots finally looked more like their old selves when they had a solid win over the Falcons to reach 2-1 on the season. The Ravens have yet to lose a game but home stands against the Chiefs and Browns were hardly major roadblocks. This game will go far in helping to define both teams - and mostly the Patriots. And who would have ever guess that the Ravens would enter this week scoring about 14 points per game more than the Pats?

Baltimore Ravens (3-0)
Homefield: M&T Bank Stadium
Sport Turf
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 KC 38-24 -12.5 36
2 @SD 31-26 +4 41
3 CLE 34-3 -13 38.5
4 @NE - +2 44.5
5 CIN - - -
6 @MIN - - -
7 BYE - - -
8 DEN - - -
9 @CIN - - -
10 @CLE - - -
11 IND - - -
12 PIT - - -
13 @GB - - -
14 DET - - -
15 CHI - - -
16 @PIT - - -
17 @OAK - - -
BAL at NE Rush Catch Pass
QB Joe Flacco     240,1
RB Ray Rice 40 40  
RB Willis McGahee 50,1 10  
TE Todd Heap   20,1  
WR Mark Clayton   40  
WR Kelley Washington   70  
WR Derrick Mason   50  
PK Steve Hauschka 2 FG 2 XP  

Pregame Notes: The Ravens are 3-0 but it hasn't been about defense to get there. The impact of Rex Ryan has been profound on the NY Jets this year and his absence here has allowed an uncharacteristic amount of big passing plays. Yielding 426 passing yards to Philip Rivers says it all. But the offense has been a pleasant surprise with a dynamic rushing game and an improved passing attack thanks to Joe Flacco. The offense is working better and compensating for the defense - how long that can last may be answered this week. First year DC Greg Mattison needs to start fixing a few things.

Quarterback: Joe Flacco already has two 300 yard games this year after having none in 2008. Unfortunately both of those came in home games against very weak opponents and his lone road effort only had 190 yards and two scores in San Diego. He has scored in each game so far and has spread his six passing touchdowns to five different receivers.

This week he faces a defense that has not allowed more than 212 passing yards and only around one touchdown per game. Matt Ryan only came up with 199 yards and no score there just last week. Flacco looked great against the Rams and Browns but his only other road game this year had him playing much like 2008. Expect only moderate yards at best this week since the Ravens will run every chance they get. He could have one passing score but unlikely more than that.

Running Backs: The two-headed attack continues to work well with Ray Rice coming off his first NFL touchdown and Willis McGahee never failing to score twice each game. Rice is the primary runner in name but has been only a marginal fantasy play despite facing two very weak teams this year. He has a solid 5.0 yards per carry but doesn't get enough of them to produce a good game. McGahee's command of the goal line even further neuters Rice.

McGahee is a scoring machine thus far and has has gained 6.2 yards per carry. For a player most grabbed as a handcuff for Rice or just for running back depth, the return has been outstanding.

The Ravens head to New England where only one rushing score has been allowed and no runner has topped 58 rushing yards. The opponents as a team have not gained more than 82 rushing yards. Expect McGahee to step down to just one score this week and the split between them to be even more telling on their respective fantasy values this week. Michael Turner only had 56 rushing yards there last week.

Wide Receivers: Derrick Mason enjoyed a big game on Sunday with 118 yards and a score but he's remained well below 50 yards in the other matchups. Mark Clayton chugs along at an even slower pace having failed to reach 40 yards in the last two weeks. The most consistent player has become Kelley Washington who has been growing in use each week and ended with five catches for 66 yards last Sunday. Each wideout has exactly one touchdown on the season.

This unit will need to step up if the Ravens will compete this week. But the Pats have only allowed three passing scores on the season and none to a wide receiver. No wideout has managed more than 87 yards against them. With a mediocre group like the Ravens have, figure on none of these players to be attractive fantasy starts.

Tight Ends: AFter a big game in week one, Todd Heap appeared to be regaining his lost prominence in Baltimore but subsequent games have been much less impressive. Still Heap has scored twice this year to be the leading scorer as a receiver and faces a secondary that has already given up two touchdowns to tight ends. Tony Gonzalez was limited to only one catch there last week but Heap won't attract nearly that much attention.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points BAL 6 1 10 11 10 11
Preventing Fantasy Points    NE 6 14 4 19 15 6


New England Patriots (2-1)
Homefield: Gillette Stadium
FieldTurf
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 BUF 25-24 -10.5 47
2 @NYJ 9-16 -6 46
3 ATL 26-10 -4 44.5
4 BAL - -2 44.5
5 @DEN - - -
6 TEN - - -
7 @TB - - -
8 BYE - - -
9 MIA - - -
10 @IND - - -
11 NYJ - - -
12 @NO - - -
13 @MIA - - -
14 CAR - - -
15 @BUF - - -
16 JAC - - -
17 @HOU - - -
NE vs BAL Rush Catch Pass
QB Tom Brady     300,2
RB Kevin Faulk 10 50  
RB Fred Taylor 40    
TE Ben Watson   20  
WR Randy Moss   110,1  
WR Julian Edelman   70,1  
WR Joey Galloway   30  
PK Stephen Gostkowski 3 FG 2 XP  

Pregame Notes: The Patriots had a feel good game last week when they soundly beat the visiting Falcons and it was almost enough to make the Jets loss palatable. The difference was that the Pats went with a heavier mixture of runs and at least a few less passes than the 50 per game pace that Brady had been following. A win here could easily be followed by three more before the bye in week eight and a 6-1 record there would keep the Pats abreast with the Jets and their later meeting in week 11 in New England.

Quarterback: After throwing 100 times over two games, the plan was less passing, more rushing. That was accomplished but Tom Brady still had 42 throws and ended with 277 yards and one touchdown. His pace is nothing like 2007 though and he only has three touchdowns on the season instead of the three per game that fantasy owners were envisioning.

This week he faces the Ravens but their secondary is no longer the feared unit that Buddy Ryan once led. Last week the Ravens crushed the Browns - whoopee! - but allowed two passing scores to both the Chargers and visiting Chiefs. Figure too that Philip Rivers passed for 426 yards when the Ravens came to San Diego and there is no reason to worry about using Brady this week. The Ravens have continued to be a force against the run and the Pats are going to have to rely almost entirely on the pass this week no matter what Bill Belichick may suggest.

Running Backs: Running back Laurence Maroney injured his thigh and left the game last Sunday so I am removing him from the projections. You should not be worrying about using a healthy Maroney and a hobbled one is the definition of "do not touch". He has been a marginal producer anyway.

Fred Taylor has been the only runner with any real fantasy value and had 105 rushing yards and a score against the Falcons. His production was nearly so good in previous games though and the Ravens defense has been completely shut down against runners who had not scored and have not gained more than 56 rushing yards by any individual. Their #7 ranking against running backs considers the 124 yards and a score that Darren Sproles had as a receiver against them. No one runs on the Ravens. Not Fred Taylor.

That suggests that Kevin Faulk may have some value this week as a receiver but that would be too risky to rely on and even still less likely to produce numbers worthy of a fantasy start.

Wide Receivers: Wes Welker has missed two games with his still unnamed knee injury and I'll exclude him from the projections until he starts having full practices. Julian Edelman was much less impressive replacing him when he only had three catches for 20 yards against the Falcons but the eight catches for 98 yards against the Jets may be a better gauge for what to expect this week. Randy Moss still has not scored this year but comes off his second big effort with 10 receptions for 116 yards last week. Against the Jets he was held to four catches for 24 yards though.

Brady will have to throw this week to move the ball so both wideouts become attractive starts. I like healthy yardage from both and Randy Moss cannot go four games into the season without a score. Start Moss and Edelman this week but watch in case Welker comes back.

Tight Ends: Chris Baker had a score last week but only two catches. He and Ben Watson are still not fantasy relevant despite the one decent game each has produced this year.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points NE 15 13 18 4 3 25
Preventing Fantasy Points    BAL 17 7 13 10 27 5

The Huddle
WEEK 4
~ 2009 ~
Season Ticket
Sunday
Sunday
Sunday
Sunday Late
Bye Week
ARI, PHI
Monday
ATL, CAR
Other Features
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Early Injury Report
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